Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Possible Duplicate:
Is past perfect necessary in the following

I was writing a sample event description and I came across the following choices:

The school that I went to, I had a classmate who used to get into fights. One day he had hit a guy in the face and was called by the principal.

The school that I went to, I had a classmate who used to get into fights. One day he hit a guy in the face and was called by the principal.

Which one seems to be the correct choice?

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Marthaª, Daniel, kiamlaluno, Mitch Mar 19 '12 at 1:53

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

    
@FumbleFingers- I think it's close but not the same, at least to my non native ears. –  Noah Mar 17 '12 at 20:20
    
Well, they're both constructions where it's grammatically possible to use either simple past or past perfect. By the very nature of this site if you keep asking what's effectively the same question you'll probably end up getting conflicting answers - particularly in a case like this, where it's as much a matter of stylistic choice as anything else. I think you'd be better off editing the first question, and asking for clarification through comments, so you can try to get all the relevant information/opinions on one page here on ELU. –  FumbleFingers Mar 17 '12 at 21:33
1  
@FumbleFingers- Thanks. I will try to do that from now on:) –  Noah Mar 17 '12 at 21:48
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Both are possible, but the second is more likely. You would use the first only if you wanted to emphasise a certain time lapse between the hitting and the calling. In this slightly different sentence, however, you would almost certainly want the past perfect construction: ‘One day he was called by the principal because he had hit a guy.’ Because one event caused the other here, the two are clearly seen as being in separate timeframes.

Incidentally, to start the sentence in the way you do with ‘The school that I went to . . .’ is colloquial. That may be what you want, but otherwise it would be normal to say ‘At the school that I went to . . .’

share|improve this answer
add comment

The past simple is correct choice. You need the past perfect only if you want to refer to an action that took place prior to the hitting. Example:

One day he hit a guy in the face who had taunted him in class earlier that morning.

share|improve this answer
add comment

It depends on what the main point of the story is.

If you are describing primarily what went on in the principal's office (or something else that was a consequence of the fight episode), then the fight was part of a description of what had happened previously, so the first option would be more suitable.

If the text is complete, or part of a longer story, then the straightforward narrative in the second option is correct.

By the way, a more grammatical introduction would be "At the school that I went to I had...".

share|improve this answer
add comment

"The school that I went to, I had a classmate who used to get into fights. One day he hit a guy in the face and was called by the principal."

Is correct. "hit" is simple past, action started and completed at a certain time in the past.

"The school that I went to, I had a classmate who used to get into fights. One day he had hit a guy in the face and was called by the principal."

"had hit" is past perfect. Action in the past proceeded by another action in the past.

I always think of it as 'steps' in the past. Simple Past one step, Past Perfect two steps back.

share|improve this answer
    
**also, I'm not sure if I would say he was called "by the principal", I would be more inclined to say "called to the principal"...but that's not the question :) –  Istable Mar 16 '12 at 10:01
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.